PLOT : When I first saw the artist Boris Lurie in the twilight of a hallway on East 66th Street in New York, it was tangibly close, his longing for Europe. And when we entered the studio apartment - this breathtaking collage of memory - it was clear to me: Lurie had never quite mentally left the concentration camps he survived together with his father. That was in October 1996. It was the beginning of a long friendship, at the start of which was a film. The Fluxus and Happening artist Wolf Vostell had drawn my attention to Lurie's disturbing pictorial works with his well-known forcefulness: concentration camp prisoners, ghostly gestures between hope for life and brokenness; surrounded by pin-up girls in unambiguous poses. Not a pornographic whim of the artist, but concept to expose the connection between sex and power, wealth and corruption. Boris Lurie had made the beautiful and the naked, the gassed and the escaped, his, though not the only, artistic theme. Always juggling on the knife's edge in the minefield between voyeuristic pleasure and pure horror. In art and life he has capitulated neither to the one nor to the other.
Thanks to the Boris Lurie Art Foundation and its director Gertrude Stein - Boris' gallerist and his closest confidante - I am now able to present, twenty years after the short film was shot in Manhattan, my nearly hour-long film THE ART OF BORIS LURIE. A film that, while corresponding to the 2016 retrospective at the Jewish Museum Berlin (JMB), is informed by my numerous encounters with Boris Lurie and his art.
My interlocutors in the film are Cilly Kugelmann, program director of the JMB, as well as Helmuth F. Braun, curator of the Lurie exhibition at the JMB; Peter Weibel, director of the ZKM-Karlsruhe, artist and self-confessed Boris Lurie fan; New York restorer and artist Ron Morosan; American avant-garde filmmaker and Lurie friend Aldo Tam-bellini. And, of course, Gertrude Stein and Boris Lurie....
My film sees itself as a dialogue between all participants: the living as well as the dead. And in this process of speech and contradictions, I could not and would not resist the temptation to interpret Lurie's work beyond common interpretations. After all, I am convinced that it is not least risky views and opinions that drive the discourse on art and artists.
I have concentrated on the art of the artist. For me, his art is the real key to the life of Boris Lurie: born in Leningrad in 1924. Died in New York City in 2008. Buried in Israel.
GERTRUDE STEIN'S STATEMENTS on BORIS LURIE in the Video docu
Excerpt from: Rudij Bergmann, Boris Lurie and I - The Art of Boris Lurie
film documentary, New York/Berlin 2015.
Boris was a very sensitive person, very compassionate, very stubborn, very intelligent, very creative, and he could get angry if he was denied something.
If someone looked to him like an anti-Semite or anti-Israeli, it upset him very much, and with some people he even broke off contact, because he was of a completely different opinion, to which he consistently adhered.
He read a lot, loved Russian music and Russian dance. He felt more Russian than anything else, although he had spent his whole life in Latvia. At least the first sixteen years, at sixteen he was put in a concentration camp.
He had experienced the Holocaust, but it did not make him an artist. He was an artist before he was imprisoned.
In a way, that was more important than the Holocaust itself: Art was created to preserve the memory of what people can do to each other and how it can be avoided in the future.
He was not a painter like Chagall, who painted pretty pictures for people. He wanted to make a statement. With each painting he made a statement.
He was brilliant in the way he analyzed the art world and politics, I totally agreed with him on that.
I loved his work, I thought it was wonderful ... nir it seemed like it was exactly what I could have done if I had continued with painting. He was a very good broker and a very good artist and art scholar in general, he understood the history of art.
His work was very, very creative. The day I met him for the first time, I went to his studio and was overwhelmed by his work and decided to open a gallery.
A gallery for important people who rejected the prevailing art system and art history of the time. I was very confrontational. Always. At that time everyone was doing Abstract Expressionism, de Kooning, Kline and Pollock, all these people and the artists I knew, and they had become very well known through some of the curators and critics.
Some of them were friends with Boris and Boris was very close to them. He liked them very much.
But when Pop Art appeared on the scene, it really upset him, and he was very angry that this art movement was taking so much credibility away from art. He hated the Pop artists, he really thought they had destroyed art in America. But he was friends with some of them, not Warhol, but he was friendly to people like Claes Oldenburg and they were friendly to him.
And they came to see the "Shit Show" ... everybody came to see the "Shit Show."
They were amazed by this exhibition, they were all attracted to it. One woman fainted there, she said the stench was unbearable. We gave all the sculptures names of art dealers. We put a dealer's nameplate in front of each sculpture [Note: These nameplates never existed and were not mentioned by Boris Lurie during the 2001 restoration]. We were going to pay them back, because all these art dealers were selling pop art!
We had nothing to lose, the art dealers were not interested in our work. The people interested in art came anyway. But it was not possible for us to sell anything. Ever.
He was far from being a pornographer. He started using pin-ups when he was in bed with a broken foot. He had all these magazines with girls in them.
He felt that it was very damaging to women to be portrayed in such a horrible way ... So he cut out the pictures, pasted them on. He then put photos of Holocaust victims next to them. So it became a statement about the Holocaust. And about what had happened to the women in his life - and about the way women were treated.
He was very pro-women. He really was.
He was ... he had been there with his mother and his sister with all the people ... why had he survived and she hadn't? [Note: see on this: Kugler, Anita: Scherwitz, The Jewish SS Officer, Cologne 2004]
He always carried this guilt with him and he wanted to do his best and leave a report about what had happened. His art was this report. [Note: See especially: Lurie, Boris and Krim, Seymour: NO!at, Cologne 1988, there p. 124, "Innovations in aesthetics, production and material ... and also: written/poetry; Weimar-Buchenwald 2003]
He liked Germans; he never believed that Germany was intrinsically bad. He knew with the Holocaust a terrible thing had happened. And he just wanted to go on with his life.
But he never forgot his mother and his sister, they were as important to him as the air he breathed ... And in the portrait of his mother, all these feelings come out.
He said to me, "Gertrude, if I don't leave money for the preservation of my paintings, it's as if I never lived". And it was very important to him that the NO!art movement live on.
That's why he made all that money. He tried to earn enough to be able to protect it all.
He lived as if he were in a concentration camp. His apartments and his studio were always black: with a bathtub in the kitchen, the toilet outside ... and there was always this "concentration camp" feeling. The whole atmosphere was like a theater.
He lived through it all his life, always anew.
In the dark and during the night he was protected in the concentration camp. During the day, of course, there was a possibility that they would catch him for something. But at night they didn't.
So the day was scary and the night was safe. That was his life.
We were always together, he used me, he painted me, photographed me all the time. I was part of his art.
We saw or spoke to each other every day. Even when I traveled or he traveled, we stayed in touch. We were always very close, and he used me for many of his pictures.
I did whatever he said, there was no sense of embarrassment or anything for me.
I believed in him.
I believed in NO!art and what he was trying to say, but it was impossible to make a market for it. [Note: Boris' opinion was: everything that is sold is lost! He even bought paintings back!]
ABOUT RUDIJ BERGMANN: The Muse(e)n Friend. He is not hectic, the filmmaker and art lover Rudij Bergmann, born in 1943 in the Rhineland, as one would have expected from a real TV man. And he has so much to tell that it's difficult to bring a bit of stringency to his bustling flow of ideas. The author of impressive artist documentaries is initially silent about his youth and school years. Only after finishing school does it seem to have become interesting. Bergmann wanted to become a writer and published volumes of poetry. But his real love at the time was politics. His commitment was so strong that he himself describes it as his " alter ego" and that is also the reason why he later moved from his homeland to the southwest. And he passed the time as a globetrotter and bohemian in Cologne. "I always wanted to be a poet," Bergmann explains, so he preferred to move in artistic circles, but in between he was also once the branch manager of a delicatessen for three days. He even played free jazz on his saxophone in dark, smoky jazz cellars - "I still lead a zigzag life". Through his parental home he experienced a certain political education, which the child Rudij Bergmann expanded by studying the plays Camus. The stage has educated him further. | INFO: http://kulturportal-rn.de/seite/rudij-bergmann/